At this event we were aiming to not only raise money for our two causes, but also awareness. Homelessness is something that could happen to anyone, and to that end, with the help of the fantastic “Helping Hands Portsmouth”, we collected a number of stories of real people who are, or have been homeless in Portsmouth itself. All of these stories have been given with permission, and are very much a reality for people in our own city. The stories were displayed throughout the exhibit, each one attached to an item you might see a homeless person with – sleeping bag, scarf, backpack and more. You can read the stories below.
A big thank you to Helping Hands for providing the stories. These have been collected through the outreach work they do, which is fantastic, and if you can help them, we encourage you to.
We are still currently fundraising! You can watch a walk through of the exhibit on our Youtube, and we would really appreciate if you would donate to our two causes! https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mad-hatters-art-exhibition-2017
Please note, these are real stories, and may be upsetting to read.
Andy lived in Scotland, and was set to be married. Two months before the wedding, his wife-to-be passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was working in the Merchant Navy, so threw himself into his work, but was made redundant shortly after his wife-to-be passed away.
He didn’t want to go back to Scotland because there were too many memories there. He had a friend who lived in Portsmouth, so came to stay with him, not realising his friend had a drug habit. Due to the environment he was now in, and his state of mind after the series of bad events, he developed a drug habit himself, and ended up on the streets because his friend didn’t pay the rent.
He parted ways with his friend, and while on the streets, amazingly managed to force himself to get clean. He had expressed a desire to get help with getting his life back on track to a group of volunteers who had recently started helping the homeless called Helping Hands. They helped him find some odd jobs to do for individuals to help provide some recent work experience and income.
Andy came to one of the Helping Hands pop-up cafe events and he started chatting with some of the volunteers there. One of the volunteers got chatting with Andy about what experience he had and what sort of work might be suitable for him. From there, with the help of the local volunteers from Helping Hands, Andy applied for a job that would be suitable (White Link). Helping Hands provided a suit and the support to help him get to and from the interview, and Andy is now working, and volunteering with Helping Hands as well.
John was in the marines and lived in Southampton. His wife cheated on him, which affected him deeply. He lost his job and home due to this. He was born in Portsmouth and came back in order to get away from his ex-wife, but with no income, was unable to get a home and so ended up on the streets.
Helping Hands found him in a doorway at the beginning of July, and found out that his background was a plumber. Helping Hands offered to buy a CSCS card, pay for the training course that goes with it, and get some tools together for him in order for him to be able to start earning something, and John jumped at the chance. He registered as self employed, and got a number of odd jobs in Portsmouth, through posts made by Helping Hands online on his behalf.
After working some odd jobs in Portsmouth, he got back in touch with his family who live in Nottingham and went to stay with then and to start his own business. He’s been in touch since getting there, and is doing well.
Helping Hands found Paul in a doorway in Commercial Road one evening. From talking with him, Helping Hands found out that he had worked on the fairgrounds. HH gave him some money to go across to Gosport to talk to the travelling fair who were there at the time, who had agreed to give him a trial run. They then offered him a permanent job and caravan to go travelling with them. He is currently still travelling and working with the fair.
Sharon & Candy (the dog)
Sharon lost her job after developing cancer due to the time she had have to have off. She went into remission, however due to being unable to pay the rent, she lost her home, and so ended up on the streets.
Sharon refused to be parted from her dog Candy, and therefore was unable to get help from any hostel or other housing service for the homeless. From being on the streets she developed a drug habit and stayed on the streets for about 6 months. Helping Hands slowly engaged with her – when they first started talking with her she wasn’t very receptive to being given help, however through gradual interactions and encouragement from Helping Hands, she managed to get herself clean, and finally asked for help.
Helping Hands found her history and that she used to work for the Post Office, and that they have a charity attached to them. HH then contacted the Post Office to find out if they would be able to support Sharon to get her back into a home. HH then set up a justgiving page to help raise money for a deposit for Sharon. Within a week they had hit their target of £750, and the donations kept coming as well, and now it stands at £1680, which will allow them to put a deposit down on a home for Sharon & Candy.
The justgiving page finished in July, and since then Helping Hands have been trying to find a place for Sharon and Candy. Unfortunately at the moment, HH has not been able to find a suitable property – etiher they are too expensive for continued rent payments, won’t accept housing benefit, or won’t allow dogs. If you know of anywhere that might be able to help – please get in touch with HH.
This person used to be self employed, owning a few burger vans. His wife cheated on him, and he blew the burger vans up out of anger. He left his wife, and had no-where to go, so ended up on the streets. Through being around other drug users he developed a drug habit. At the time of writing, this person had been on the streets for around 9 months, and is currently not receptive to receiving help.
Steven suffers with mental health issues, and had been homeless for 9 months when Helping Hands was able to start helping him. Bev (the founder of HH) took him to the council after finding out that he wasn’t aware he could do this, and they managed to get him into a nurturing unit in Southampton. HH paid for his train fair and supported him getting to the place in Southampton. He is still there at the moment, and HH have helped to kit out his room as well.
Tomo was living elsewhere in the country, and was made homeless. He had to come back to Portsmouth as that is where he was born.
With a low reading and writing ability, and not much experience with the internet, Tomo struggled to find a place to live, and the thought of having to fill out forms to apply for help was daunting to Tomo.
A grant is available for a deposit for individuals who are homeless in Portsmouth, if they have found a place to live. With Bev from HH’s help, a place was found for him on spareroom.com, and a grant for the deposit was provided by the council. Helping Hands then also helped to kit out his room with essentials and accessories donated by supporters of HH.
These two were addicted to drugs when younger, but together managed to get clean, got married and had kids. About a year ago, she had been out with friends and decided to walk home instead of getting a taxi. She was raped. She told her husband, who went back to drugs as a way of coping, and she then went back that way as well. They lost their kids, and ended up homeless. They used to live in Bristol, but came to Portsmouth when their children got taken away because he was born here. They’ve been on the streets for a year.
Recently she went into hospital with pneumonia. Helping Hands fund raised to get a phone for both of them so they could stay in touch, and also was able to provide some essentials for her while in hospital, and a bus pass for him.
Once she was better, she was given antibiotics, and released. HH stayed with her in the hospital until they were able to get an appointment with the council, refusing to allow her to go back onto the streets, while still recovering – after getting a letter from the doctor to say that she was discharged, but if she went back onto the streets, she would die.
Steven Morgan arranged an appointment at the council, which HH went to with them to help fill out the forms, and got them both into an emergency hotel. HH agreed with the council that they would see them through the Hub (which is a drug rehabilitation unit). They both went onto the plans, and they are both clean now. They are both still with the Hub, having regular counselling sessions and tests to help keep them on track. The council have held up their word, and are still helping with temporary accommodation for them both, until they can find a place to move in to. They are currently on a waiting list for a council property, and as soon as one comes up, they will be able to move into it.